Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

United States



Aid quality is just as important as aid quantity, so the CDI measures gross aid as a share of GDP adjusted for various quality factors: it subtracts debt service, penalizes “tied” aid that makes recipients spend aid only on donor goods and services, rewards aid to poor but relatively well-governed recipients, and penalizes overloading poor governments with many small projects.

United States’ aid performance

  • Score: 3.0
  • Rank: 17


  • Large amount of private charitable giving attributable to tax policy (0.03% of GDP; rank 2)
  • Prevents project proliferation; large average project size (rank: 7)
  • Low net aid volume as a share of the economy (0.19%; rank: 19)
  • Large share of tied or partially tied aid (44.68%; rank: 19)
  • Small share of aid to poor and better-governed recipients (selectivity rank: 23)


International trade has been a force for economic development for centuries. The CDI measures trade barriers in rich countries against exports from developing countries. It also penalizes costly importation processes and restrictions against purchasing services from foreigners.

United States’ trade performance

  • Score: 7.1
  • Rank: 3


  • Low tariffs on agricultural products (4.4% of the value of imports; rank: 3)
  • Low tariffs on beef (3.1 % of the value of imports; rank: 3)
  • Low tariffs on other meats (3.1 % of the value of imports; rank: 3)
  • Low agricultural subsidies (equivalent to a tariff worth 12.9% of the value of imports; rank: 9)
  • Few documents required for importation (5 documents; rank: 1)
  • High tariffs on textile (8.8 % of the value of imports; rank: 23)
  • High tariffs on clothing (9.8 % of the value of imports; rank: 23)


Rich-country investment in poorer countries can transfer technologies, upgrade management and create jobs. Conversely, policies that permit financial secrecy of companies and banks can facilitate illicit activities and financial flows abroad. The CDI rewards policies that support healthy investment in developing countries and promote transparency in financial transactions at home.

United States’ finance performance

  • Score: 5.1
  • Rank: 15


  • Low score in the Bribe Payers Index (rank: 8)
  • Vigorous prosecution of home-country bribe payers
  • Active participation and leadership in extractive industries transparency initiatives such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the Kimberley Process on blood diamonds
  • Scores above average in the Financial Secrecy Index for regulations in place to promote transparent financial transactions within its jurisdiction (rank: 7)
  • Political risk insurance only available to national firms
  • Political risk insurance agency imposes inappropriate national economic interest tests on investment projects
  • Does not provide assistance to companies looking for investment opportunities in developing countries
  • Does not provide official support for outflows of portfolio investment


The movement of people from poor to rich countries provides unskilled immigrants with jobs, income and knowledge. This increases the flow of money sent home by migrants abroad and the transfer of skills when the migrants return.

United States’ migration performance

  • Score: 3.6
  • Rank: 20


  • Large share of foreign students from developing countries (73.5%; rank: 11)


  • Bears small share of the burden of refugees during humanitarian crises (rank: 20)
  • Small number of immigrants from developing countries entering the United States (rank by share of population: 18)


Rich countries use a disproportionate amount of scarce resources, and poor countries are most vulnerable to global warming and ecological deterioration, so the CDI measures the impact of policies on the global climate, fisheries and biodiversity.

United States’ environment performance

  • Score: 4.3
  • Rank: 23


  • Low tropical timber imports ($5.25 per capita equivalent: rank: 2)


  • High greenhouse gas emissions rate per capita (33.3 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent; rank: 24) 
  • High fossil fuel production rate per capita (14.7 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent; rank: 24)
  • High consumption of ozone-depleting chemicals per capita (rank: 26)
  • Low gas taxes ($0.13 per liter; rank: 27)
  • Has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change 
  • Poor compliance with mandatory reporting requirements under multilateral environmental agreements relating to biodiversity (rank: 22)


Since security is a prerequisite for development, the CDI rewards contributions to internationally sanctioned peacekeeping operations and forcible humanitarian interventions, military protection of global sea lanes, and participation in international security treaties. It also penalizes arms exports to poor and undemocratic governments.

United States’ security performance

  • Score: 4.6
  • Rank: 17


  • Significant personnel contributions to internationally-sanctioned peacekeeping and humanitarian interventions over last decade (rank by share of GDP: 8)
    Positions naval fleet to protect sea lanes vital for international trade (rank: 1)


  • Low personnel contributions to UN peacekeeping and humanitarian interventions over last decade (rank by share of GDP: 25)
  • Has not ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Mine Ban Treaty, and is not a party to the International Criminal Court
  • High level of arms exports to poor and undemocratic governments (rank by share of GDP: 23)


Rich countries contribute to development through the creation and dissemination of new technologies. The CDI captures this by measuring government support for R&D and penalizing strong intellectual property rights regimes that limit the dissemination of new technologies to poor countries.

United States’ technology performance

  • Score: 4.7
  • Rank: 15


  • High government expenditure on R&D (rank by share of GDP: 5)
  • Restricts copyrighting of databases
  • Large share of government R&D expenditure on defense 
  • Allows patents on plant and animal varieties
  • Allows patents on software innovations
  • Pushes to extend intellectual property rights in bilateral trade treaties (“TRIPS Plus” measures) that restrict the flow of innovations to developing countries
  • Imposes strict limitations on anti-circumvention technologies that can defeat encryption of copyrighted digital materials
  • Does not force patent holders to license to meet social needs